Best Travel Credit Cards in Canada for 2018

by Barry Choi October 26, 2018 / 8 Comments

Canada’s credit card market saw some dramatic changes over the last year. Rewards programs were altered, popular cards were discontinued, and one new game-changer card joined the market.

Travel rewards credit cards continue to be very popular amongst Canadians — who doesn’t want to travel for free? The problem is, there are so many different cards and programs that it can be difficult to figure out which is the best for you.

To make things easier, we’re highlighting the best travel credit cards in Canada for 2018.

Ratehub.ca’s best travel credit cards in Canada for 2018

Credit Card Best Travel Card For Annual Fee
Scotiabank Gold American Express (VIEW) Everyday Use $99
American Express Cobalt Card (VIEW)

BMO World Elite MasterCard (VIEW)

Frequent Travellers $120

$150 (waived 1st year)

Home Trust Preferred Visa (VIEW)

Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite (VIEW)

No Foreign Transaction Fees $0

$139

MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus Mastercard (VIEW)

Blue Sky Credit Card (VIEW)

Scotiabank American Express Card (VIEW)

No Annual Fees $0
The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express (VIEW) Hotel Stays $120


Scotiabank Gold American Express

  • Earn 4 Scotia Rewards points per dollar on gas, groceries, entertainment, and restaurants; 1 point per dollar on everything else
  • Special offer: Receive a $100 gift card to Amazon, Cineplex or Indigo when you apply through Ratehub
  • Earn 15,000 bonus points (value: up to $150) when you make $1,000 in everyday purchases in the first 3 months for accounts opened before February 28, 2019
  • Discounted membership to Priority Pass airport lounges
  • Annual fee: $99

With four points for every $1 spent on gas, groceries, restaurants, and entertainment, the Scotiabank Gold American Express consistently ranks as one of the best travel rewards cards in Canada for racking up points on everyday purchases. The 15,000 welcome bonus you get for spending $1,000 in the first three months has a value of $150 (100 Scotia Rewards points = $1 when redeemed for travel), including flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises, vacation packages. Points can also be redeemed for gift cards and merchandise from retailers such as Apple and Best Buy.

When booking your travel, you can choose to use Scotia Rewards’ full-service travel agency, or charge your travel expenses to your card and redeem points later to cover the costs. There are no restrictions for redeeming travel — you can book anywhere, anytime, and use points to cover all taxes and fees. There are several additional benefits including comprehensive travel insurance, concierge service, 30% off a Priority Pass membership (USD$32 fee also applies per visit), price protection, and much more.


American Express Cobalt Card

  • Earn 5 points per dollar on restaurants, coffee shops, bars, grocery stores, and food delivery
  • Earn 2 points per dollar on gas, taxis, public transportation and travel (air, water, rail, or road transport, plus hotels)
  • Earn 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
  • Welcome Offer: 2,500 points every month you spend $500 in your 1st year (total value of $300)
  • Annual fee: $120 (charged at $10 monthly)

When the American Express Cobalt Card was introduced, many Canadians felt the card was an instant game-changer. Earning 5 points for every $1 spent on restaurants, groceries, and food delivery was very aggressive – as was the first-year welcome offer that gives you 2,500 points for every month you spend $500 on the card up to a maximum of 30,000 points ($300 value). Plus, the card offers 2 points per dollar on travel-related purchases, including flight tickets from any airline. The $10 monthly fee was also a unique take on the card as it felt more like a subscription service where cardholders could earn extra points with their monthly spending and still have ability to cancel at any time without a penalty.

It should be noted that the Membership Rewards points earned are of a lower category compared to other American Express cards, but they’re valuable nonetheless. For every 1,000 points, you can redeem $10 in travel, which works out to a 5% return on food and drink purchases. Non travel redemption gets you $7 for every 1,000 points — or a 3.5% return — which is comparable to some of the best cash-back cards. In addition, you can transfer your Membership Rewards points to Starwood (SPG) points at a 2:1 ratio.


BMO World Elite MasterCard

  • Earn 3 BMO Rewards points per dollar on travel, dining and entertainment purchases; 2 points per dollar on everything else
  • Earn 35,000 bonus points (value: $250) when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months
  • VIP lounge access with the included Mastercard Airport Experiences membership, plus 4 complimentary passes per year
  • $150 annual fee (waived for the first year)

The BMO World Elite MasterCard is another popular travel rewards card, giving you three BMO Rewards points per $1 spent on travel (a big plus for frequent flyers whose list of high spend purchases include flight tickets) as well as restaurants and entertainment. The card offers two points per dollar on everything else.

The card includes a number of great features including a Mastercard Airport Experiences membership with four complimentary passes per year, allowing you VIP airport lounge access in cities across the world. It also has comprehensive travel insurance package, and no blackout dates when redeeming for travel.

Note: Updated to include changes to the BMO Rewards program effective Jan. 15, 2018.


Home Trust Preferred Visa

  • No annual fee
  • 0% foreign currency conversion charge on purchases abroad
  • Earn 1% cash back on all purchases, with no limit on the amount you can earn
  • Not available to residents of Quebec

Home Trust is mostly known for offering mortgages, but their credit card portfolio has grown over the last few years. The Home Trust Preferred Visa was introduced to the market last year with little fanfare, but it’s one of the best travel cards in Canada because it has no annual fee, and doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees — when you make a purchase in a foreign country or in a currency other than CAD/USD, most cards tack on a 2.5%-3% surcharge. Note that the Home Trust Preferred Visa is not available to residents of Quebec.


Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite

  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Earn 2 Scotia Rewards points on every $1 spent on eligible grocery stores, dining, entertainment purchases, and transit purchases
  • Earn 1 point per dollar on all other eligible purchases
  • Earn 25,000 bonus points with your first $1,000 in everyday purchases in the first 3 months – offer available for new accounts opened by January 31, 2019)
  • Includes Priority Pass airport lounge membership with 6 free visits per year
  • Annual fee: $139

The Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite is currently the only card from one of Canada’s major banks that doesn’t levy a fee on purchases made in foreign currencies. Combined with a spending bonus of 25,000 bonus points ($250 value) and six free visits per year to Priority Pass lounges worldwide, this card is a great choice for an all-in-one travel card.

This card gives you two Scotia Rewards points for every $1 spent on eligible grocery stores, dining, entertainment (including movie theatres, musicals/plays, orchestras, concert tickets), and daily transit purchases (including buses, subways, taxis, limos, trains, and ferries), and one point per dollar on everything else.


MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus Mastercard

  • No annual fee
  • Earn 2 points per dollar on gas, groceries and restaurants (on up to an annual spend of $5,000 per category) and 1 point per dollar on everything else
  • Welcome offer: 5,000 points after your first purchase and e-statement enrolment (must be within 90 days)
  • Travel insurance benefits

One of the few no fee travel credit cards in Canada that offers bonus points on three different spending categories (rather than on just one or a flat rate on all purchases), the MBNA Rewards Platinum Plus Mastercard earns you 2 points for every dollar spent on gas, groceries and restaurants (on up to $5,000 in purchases per category per year) and 1 point on everything else.

In addition to a generous tiered rewards structure, new card holders can capitalize on a 5,000 welcome bonus ($50 value) after making their first purchase and signing up for online e-statements within their first 90 days. Plus, with MBNA’s flexible rewards structure, you can use points for flights on any airline, apply points towards taxes and fees, as well as redeem points retroactively. The card also features some travel insurance benefits including lost baggage assistance and up to $1,000,000 in emergency travel insurance.


Blue Sky Credit Card

  • No annual fee
  • Earn 1.25 Blue Sky points per dollar on all purchases
  • Earn 10,000 points when you make $500 in purchases in your first 3 months
  • Redeem for travel, merchandise, gift cards, or statement credit

The Blue Sky Credit Card has a lot of flexibility and a stellar earn rate for a no-fee travel card: 1.25 Blue Sky points for every $1 spent on the card. Every 100 points is worth $1 in rewards. Points can be redeemed in increments of 5,000 starting with little as 10,000 points (worth $100 in travel rewards).

This card is comparable to its premium counterparts: There are no blackout dates, and you can book through any airline, carrier, or travel agency. You can also book your trip first and apply your points to cover the cost later — up to one year after your purchase. It also includes up to $100,000 in travel accident insurance coverage.

You can also earn bonus points by referring friends. For each approved referral, you’ll get 5,000 Blue Sky points.


Scotiabank American Express Card

  • No annual fee
  • Earn 1 Scotia Rewards point per dollar on all purchases
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points with your first $500 in purchases in first 3 months (offer applies to new accounts opened by February 28, 2019
  • Redeem for travel, merchandise, gift cards, or statement credit

With no annual fee for extras or privileges, the Scotiabank American Express Card works as both a standalone card, or as a secondary card for existing Scotia Rewards collectors. Every dollar spent on the card earns you one Scotia Rewards point, redeemable for travel (flights, hotels, cruises, car rentals, and vacation packages), merchandise (including Apple and Best Buy catalogues), gift cards, or as a credit on your monthly card statement.

For a no-fee card, it has strong travel insurance coverage: Travel emergency medical (up to $1 million in coverage for up to eight consecutive days of travel), travel interruption insurance and travel accident insurance (when you charge at least 75% of trip costs to your card), and car rental collision/loss damage (up to 48 consecutive days of coverage for vehicles costing less than $65,000).


The Starwood Preferred Guest from American Express

  • Earn 5 points in eligible Card purchases at participating SPG and Marriott Rewards hotels and 2 points on all other purchases
  • Welcome Bonus: 50,000 points when you make $1,500 in purchases in the first 3 months
  • Automatic SPG Silver Elite Status
  • Annual fee: $120

For many frequent travellers, earning points that can be redeemed for discounted accommodation or a free nights stay at a hotel is just as (if not more) important as securing a deal on a flight ticket.

Enter the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express. Relaunched in mid-year 2018 following the merger of Starwood and Marriott, this card offers 5 points per dollar spent at any of the 6,500 hotels under the Marriott umbrella and 2 points per dollar on all other purchases. Points can be redeemed for free nights at any of those same hotels, which include brands such as Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Ritz Carlton, Sheraton, Delta and over a dozen others. This card also features a large welcome bonus of 50,000 points after spending your first $1,500, which equates to four free night stays at select hotels. An added plus of this card is its wide array of point transfer options. You can transfer Starwood points to the loyalty programs of over 40 airlines.

In contrast to the other travel credit cards on this list, which offer the ability to use points for hotel stays but at the cost of a lower redemption value, the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card is made for hotel rewards.

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  • Charles Kaplan

    Note: Home Trust is not available in Quebec!

    • Ratehub.ca

      Hi Charles,
      That’s correct. We have that noted on the Home Trust review, but we’ll add it here for clarity as well. Thank you.

    • Ratehub

      Unfortunately true, but the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite card still offers some excellent benefits for foreign exchange transaction fees and it is available nationwide.

  • Alex

    Brim MasterCard 1% back

    Great for travelling! Brand new MasterCard with no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees, no additional card member fee and use it with Apple Pay!! Use my code 60357 and get 10$! They also give you 100$ for every 5 people you refer. This card has loads of other perks and features!

    https://brimfinancial.com/?code=60357

  • P2theA2theT

    What about Scotiabank Amex Platinum? Or American Express® AeroplanPlus®* Reserve Card??

    • Ratehub

      Both are excellent cards, but due to the higher annual fees for these cards the benefits are not as compelling for the average Canadian. We will consider adding in a section for frequent travelers in the future though.

      Thank you for your feedback!

  • James

    What about TD aeroplan Visa?

    • Ratehub

      Hi James,
      It’s an excellent card, but when we crunched the numbers we found that the cards we picked for the list offered a bit more value for the average Canadian. Cards are always changing though, so we’re monitoring cards and updating our recommendations based on point valuations, sign up bonuses, ease of redemptions and other factors.